Car Seat Safety


This blog was written by Tim Burrows, Toronto Police Traffic Sergeant. WonderMoms has asked Tim Burrows to provide our readers with accurate information regarding Car Seat Safety to assist our readers. 

I am often asked about the installation of infant, child and booster seats. I have two advantages over the average person to be able to talk about this.

1.) I'm a police officer that has been trained in the installation and inspection of the various seats and anchoring systems and;

2.) I'm a parent that at one time had all three systems in my vehicles.

(The joy of having 3 close in age but different in weights)


As a police officer, I have seen the devastation that is done to families from the non-use, improper use or improper installation of the child safety seats.


As a parent, there is nothing more important to me than ensuring that my children are protected as best as possible while travelling in a motor vehicle.


One thing that never fails to surprise me is the panic phone calls from parents on the day they are to take their children home from the hospital needing an emergency installation. Did you not know that you were having a baby in the previous 9 months or so and did you read the instruction manual? I have owned 14 child safety seats from 6 different manufacturers. All of them came with excellent step-by-step instructions.


There are three important gauges to consider which child safety system is best for your children.

  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight

All children must be in one form of safety seat. Infant rear facing/forward facing, toddler forward facing and child booster.

The driver of a motor vehicle is responsible for occupants under the age of 16 to be restrained properly. As the driver you may be charged with several offences for not having the occupants restrained. In Ontario there is a simple law that applies; one person, one seat belt.



Newborn babies and infants require special protection while in a vehicle. In a collision, using properly installed rear-facing car seats can save your child's life.

Infant car seats should face the back of the vehicle, rest at a 45-degree angle and move no more than 2.5 cm (1 in.) where the seat belt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap is routed through the child car seat.


If necessary, use a towel or a foam bar (pool noodle) under the base of the child car seat to adjust the angle. Harness straps should sit at or below a baby's shoulders. You should not be able to fit more than one finger underneath the harness straps at the child's collarbone. The chest clip should be flat against the chest at armpit level.


When the child outgrows the maximum height and weight of his/her infant seat, you may require a convertible rear-facing seat until your child is ready to be facing forward. The law requires using a rear-facing car seat until the baby is at least 9 kilograms (20 lb.)


The law is a minimum requirement. It's best to keep your child rear facing until they are at a least one year old or until they have reached either the maximum height or weight limits of the rear-facing seat.

  • Birth to 9 kg (20 lb.)
  • Rear-facing seat
  • Use away from an active airbag

My Personal Tips: 80 to 90 % of all infant installations are done improperly. The number one problem that we have seen; people are afraid to snug it down. I always put a knee in the seat and put all my weight on the seat when I was securing my children's seats. There cannot be more than 1" of movement in any direction. Yes, this requires some flexibility on your part, but it's your children we are talking about...do what you have to.



A child can start riding facing forward when he or she is at least 9 kg (20 lbs.).

To prevent the car seat from moving forward and causing injury in a collision, it is important to use the tether strap exactly as the manufacturer recommends. If your vehicle does not have a tether anchor in place, contact your dealership to have one properly installed.

To install a forward-facing car seat, fasten the tether strap, and then use your body weight to tighten and fasten the seat belt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap.

Ensure that the shoulder straps are at or above the child's shoulders. Straps should be snug, with only one finger width between the strap and the child's chest. Avoid using aftermarket car seat products. They can become projectiles or may have hard or sharp surfaces that can hurt the child in a collision.

  • 9 to 18 kg (20-40 lb.)
  • Forward-facing seat
  • Use with a tether strap

My Personal Tips: Same as for the rear facing...put your weight in there when you snug it down. Double-check the installation at least once per week.


Pre-school to 8 years old

The law requires booster seats for children who have outgrown a child car seat but are too small for a regular seat belt.

Booster seats are required for children under the age of eight, weighing 18 kg or more but less than 36 kg (40-80 lb.) and who stand less than 145 cm (4 feet-9 inches) tall.

  • A child can start using a seat belt alone once any one of the following criteria is met:
  • child turns eight years old
  • child weighs 36 kg (80 lb.)
  • child is 145 cm (4 feet-9 inches) tall.

Seat belts are designed to protect adults. Booster seats raise the child up so that the adult seat belt works more effectively. Booster seats protect against serious injury 3 ½ times better than seat belts alone.

A lap and shoulder combination belt must be used with all booster seats. Your child's head must be supported by the top of the booster, vehicle seat or headrest. The shoulder strap must lie across the child's shoulder (not the neck or face) and middle of the chest, and the lap belt must cross low over the hips (not the stomach/abdomen). Never use seat belt adjusters.

  • Between 18 and 36 kg (40-80 lb.)
  • Booster seat
  • Use with lap and shoulder belt

My Personal Tips: 1.) WATCH THEM. My children love to move the shoulder belt under their arms or right down to where the lap portion sits. I guess it gives them more range of motion to try and infuriate each other with touching and bugging. Gentle reminders are fun...locking clips are priceless. 2.) Don't be in a hurry to move them out...they do offer a great deal of added protection. It is better to be safe than sorry. If they are on the edge, let them stay put.

For tips on installation, visit the Ministry of Transportation Website by clicking here.

For more information from the Toronto Police Service on Child safety seats, click here.

What do you think? Have you had trouble installing child seats or have a story about how they protected your children? Let me know. Comments are welcomed!!